Gas prices face gov’t control

| 08/08/2008

(CNS): The islands’ two wholesale gasoline and diesel distributors will have to notify the Chief Petroleum Inspector before increasing their prices under new regulations the government intends to introduce. The rules will give the inspector the authority to approve or refuse increases in part or in whole, to postpone them or set terms and conditions upon which they can be made. Failure to notify the Inspector of increase in the wholesale price or failure to comply with his directives could result in a fine of $10,000 for the wholesaler.

The islands’ two wholesale gasoline and diesel distributors will have to notify the Chief Petroleum Inspector before increasing their prices under new regulations the government intends to introduce. The rules will give the inspector the authority to approve or refuse increases in part or in whole, to postpone them or set terms and conditions upon which they can be made.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet press briefing, the Leader of Government Business, Kurt Tibbetts said that the amendments to the Dangerous Substances Handling and Storage Law (2003) would regulate the process by which the two wholesale distributors of gasoline and diesel and any other future distributor can increase their prices. Failure to notify the Inspector of increase in the wholesale price or failure to comply with his directives could result in a fine of $10,000 for the wholesaler. Tibbetts explained that the inspector would be required to consider relevant factors, which may include data provided by the wholesalers, or public interest in making his decisions and if wholesalers are dissatisfied they would be able to appeal.

 “Oil prices are siphoning money out of everyone’s pockets,” said Tibbetts. This government’s foremost responsibility is to look after the welfare of its citizens, and this is exactly what we hope to do with these amendments.”

 He said that while the global oil problem is not in this government’s control locally there were steps that could be taken to ease the financial burden for Cayman’s residents and that this was just one measure. He said that because there were concerns about how the wholesalers control the prices at the pumps this was an opportunity to begin assessing how closely price increases reflected the global situation. Minister Alden McLaughlin said that with these amendments to the law would help government to ensure prices were fair.

“There is a common allegation that as soon as oil increases on the world market pump prices go up immediately even if the tanks are full, but when costs fall we don’t get the same response,” he said. We don’t know if this is the case so we are trying to establish if it is or not and then we a will be able to reassure the public that prices are fair.”

 Tibbetts said there needed to be some accountability around pricing but the government was not quite on the road of price fixing even though this was happening in other Caribbean islands.

“While we are not convinced yet that we should have specific regulations that create mark up ceilings for both the bulk distributers and the retailers this data will give us a clear indication as to what kind of mark up now occurs,” he said, adding that the distributers were not being singled out for any untoward behaviour.

“If there is one commodity which determines the price of everything else it is fuel hence we have to take steps for a proper accountability process which is transparent. We are not deciding how they run their companies but we want to make sure that prices are fair.”

Both of the fuel wholesalers on island, Chevron and Esso confirmed to Cayman News Service that they had only received notification of the proposed regulations at the end of the office day on Wednesday 6 August and had yet to consider the information. Chevron pointed out that it was the firm’s policy to comply with local legislation and that it was looking forward to consulting with the Cayman Islands Government as this important legislation is being developed. Esso will also be offering their thoughts on the regulations later today (8 August).

 

 

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